Take note of Tiny Art! | Miniature Worlds and Why They Matter
Updated: Jun 17
I have recently been delving into miniature art for my next Skillshare class, and I find tiny artworks so fascinating.
If you’ve ever been to an historic house, or watched a period drama, you may remember having seen miniature portraits from Tudor times through to the Regency period. Tiny portraiture art became popular in Henry 8th’s court and continued to be so throughout the 17th & 18th centuries. In a pre-photographic era, miniature portraits became a way of conveying a person’s likeness to possible suitors, or of taking memories of loved ones on travels. They were initially things only the wealthy had access to commissioning, and therefore gained an air of preciousness that derived not only from the sentimentality attached, but from the money invested in them.
During Regency England, however, new methods and the miniature’s tiny size meant portraits became more accessible to the middle class (you can read more about this in Vanessa Riley’s blog)
However, once photography changed the world and could capture a sentiment in moments, miniature art changed too. Nowadays it has expanded its scope to include varied mediums and subjects, using its tiny size to create new worlds. Miniature art has now gone beyond portraits and landscapes, bringing in new subjects and flipping the way we see the everyday.
According to the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers in order to qualify as a miniature the artwork should fit into the framed dimensions of 6 x 4.5 inches (or 8 inches for sculptures) and be of exquisite detail.
So why do I find miniatures so interesting? I’m glad you asked…
Due to their tiny size, miniature artworks can usually only be viewed by one person at a time. Therefore, a wonderful, singular relationship is formed with the viewer, whereby, in that moment of viewing, it is just you and the art. Other opinions don’t matter, only yours. Intimacy is created from this private connection and you can feel however you need to, and move through that miniature world in your own time.
Miniature artworks are tiny, and with tiny space comes specific choices by the artist. There is only so much space and editing is important. Therefore, the artist chooses what they are going to focus on and, because this focus is so concentrated, it makes the result potent. By zoning in on a specific moment the theme is elevated. An everyday item, when placed into a miniature frame, becomes bigger, and quietly demands we take notice; and a large item reduced to fit in a frame is changed and we are forced to re-evaluate it.
The editing required in miniature art also means that the artist can seek out a type of perfection. Now, I do not mean that they are seeking a perfect thing in itself to draw or sculpt - but, instead, they can highlight an element of something and, in taking notice of it, distill it into its detailed essence. Finding each tiny detail and making it worthy of notice is to appreciate the make-up of our world, to appreciate the foundations and building blocks of our lives.
There is value in tiny things, there always has been. Throughout history we have given small tokens to each other, which we can keep hold of, in our pockets and wallets, and which mean something important to us. Their smallness automatically denotes something precious, to be kept safe. Their value is not in their monetary worth, but in their sentimental weight.
Miniature arts can move - they can travel with us on our life journeys. We can easily package them up safely and store them. What’s not to love about an artwork you can fit in your pocket?
If you would like to create your own miniature, using a fun printmaking method, head over to my Drypoint class on Skillshare!
Keep making to make happy!
Love Gem x